It is irrefutable that the loss of individual freedoms and liberties has prolonged, devastating effects on society. Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes in his The Origins of Civil Society: “When a man renounces his liberty, he renounces his essential manhood, his rights, and even his duty as a human being.” The renouncement of said liberty results in a citizen’s loss of individuality, his or her forfeiting of morality, and the abandonment of the citizen’s individual progress or communal responsibilities.
When one renounces his or her liberty, he or she is also renouncing his or her independence. In doing so, the citizen becomes nothing more than an extension of that entity which he or she is surrendering his or her independence. Such occurrences took place as the Romans conquered Europe. Each time an invading Roman army was able to successfully defeat a native land, and all rebellions were squashed, the people of that state began to consider themselves Roman. Their national identities were usually all but forgotten, and their new devotion was not to the culture and governments of their ancestors, but rather to those of the Romans. They were lured by both propaganda and the advantages of being a loyal Roman citizen until these citizens’ behavior and ideas were no longer that of their native culture but were now ideally Roman.
A person’s relinquishing of liberty leads to a relinquishing of morals. As one loses freedom and self-determination, his or her morals begin to wither as well. When the state outlaws certain aspects of a citizen’s morality, it fills that need for a structure with moral codes of its own. Such was the case with Hitler’s leadership of Nazi Germany. The German people entrusted him with their futures, and thus relinquished their self-determination. As he ruthlessly persecuted Jews, homosexuals, blacks, and other minorities, he was able to manipulate the public’s morality to prevent any considerable back-lash by concerned Germans. When aiding or protecting those persecuted became illegal, assisting in their capture became not only legal, but a strongly reinforced civic duty. Those loyal German subjects had essentially traded in their liberty for becoming an extension of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi agenda.
The forfeiting of liberty also leaves lasting effects on an individual’s progress in his or her specific field of work, as well as his or her communal duty. The liberty-deprived citizen will have no regard for individual progress or looking out for his or her fellow man. Instead, he or she will be devoted entirely to the government. Anything that was once a civic duty to benefit the community and society as a whole will become nothing more than a service to the government. These transformations were seen within the Soviet Union, as those in charge of the press were not reporting honest news, but became government officials tasked with the spread of propaganda that they themselves believed to be true. They at least operated under the pretense of the propaganda as a necessity for their survival and thriving within the movement to gain reward and party support which was better than currency. KGB agents served the government, not the people. As such, they were often tasked with rooting anyone with thoughts or ideas that the government had decided to be censored.
Hence, the renouncement of one’s liberty leads to the loss of far more than the idea of wanting to do as one pleases. Government pawns would be made, morals would be lost, and one’s desire to excel, a calling that benefits both himself or herself and his or her community, will have been vanquished. All that would remain would be the easiest people to manipulate: those who are utterly selfless, moral-less, and duty-less.
Source that was read before writing this take on liberty: John Locke in chapter 14 of his Second Treatise on Civil Government.
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